The Life Of Kyle Johnson

Submitted into Contest #141 in response to: Write about a character named after one of our contest’s judges.... view prompt

38 comments

Fiction Drama Sad


The remembrance of the days when I still was using, still passes upon me with a flame of excruciating regret. Yesterday I saw a boy, in his eyes I found the resemblance to my young self he bears upon his features, and for a second I was lost in the stream of memories his face had blown in me. 


It's been weeks since I had someone home. I lived alone for the better part of twenty years. Sometimes when I sit in front of the TV, it would to me the memories of my childhood home, and the sounds of that time would fill up my consciousness, and I would lose shape of the world I've created for myself, and dive into the past, living through the passage of time, a broken tape playing in my mind. I lost touch with my siblings years ago, and in my state, this squalor of a life I live, I'm unable to rekindle that long gone relationship of ours. So when the image of them passes by my eyes, I feel waves churning in my stomach, waves of bitterness.


When I think of my family, sometimes it would become clear to me that I was not treated fairly. But my heart cares not for what they wronged me, but only for them, without what they did or not did to me. A man stops to care for what people had done to him, when he finds nobody around him, neither to help him nor to hurt him.


To have a clearer picture of my life, the unremarkable journey I've been sailing for about fifty years, I have to tell you of what had caused me in the first place to become this miserable weak little man I am today. 


As a kid, I was prone to be led around by my peers. It was as if I had no authority over myself. My father used to scold me over the fact that I was too weak, that I let people do what they wanted to do to me, without me daring to point that out to them. And I always knew he was right. When I first started smoking, it was not because I've been coveting over the taste of tobacco filling my lungs, but because I worried over what my friends would think of me. Knowing that after all these years, makes me wanna slap my younger self, but then again, unlike my father, who was a complete stranger to the thoughts that floated in gloom upon my consciousness, I had an understanding of why I did what I did.


When people usually criticize someone, it is most likely that they are oblivious to the factors that lead him to act in such a manner, and I came to that realization at a very young age. So as a result, I tended to give excuses to people who treated me badly, which made them continue in their ways towards me. And then of course I learned, the hard way, that understanding something is far from solving it. 


The smoking of cigarettes developed with time into more dangerous habits. I fell into an abyss of drugs and slowly lost myself in the quest of satisfying my growing desires. When I first started smoking, it was an innocent act, a mask to cover up for my cowardliness, but then, pleasure got the best of me, and I found myself looking for whatever substance might eventually send me in an eternal revelry. My search was fruitless, for I eventually found myself in the dirt, not able to find pleasure, but enslaved to the promises of those drugs.


By then, my father had already denounced me.


At the age of twenty five, I was on my own, renting a room with a friend of mine. I still had a deteriorating relationship with my mother, and a somewhat natural one with my siblings. They were all informed of my addictions, and so I always detected a tone of contempt in their voices as they addressed me. I tried to shake off the feeling that they might be looking down on me, but I could not. It's almost impossible to avert your eyes from the truth, especially if it's unpleasant. 


I remember the days when I tried to stop consuming with a certain pride. Although it is undeniable that I failed miserably, it is of more value to me now, knowing that I tried. I still remember with an extreme distinction the mornings when I woke up determined to end my torment, my deceived notion of the eternal ecstasy, that evasive euphoria, just to eventually succumb to the vain desire of relief, of numbness, knowing that nothing but perpetual pain is waiting for me once I'm conscious enough of my world. It is frightening how although you know that in reasonable terms, what you're doing is wrong, that those actions would eventually lead you down into the muddy grounds of your nightmares, but still, as if by a programmed mind, or a trained muscle memory, you walk towards harm, and indulge yourself in it.


I found that the mornings of my childhood are very different from that of my twenties. When the morning back then, shone over the trees that surrounded the house, I was able to appreciate the pale pools of light that bathed our backyard's grass. I was able to look up at the sky, and bury my eyes into the mellow grey clouds, to feel the world oppressed under their soft-looking shapes. I was able to appreciate its light blue, knowing that it would grow stronger, that it would deepen, and that the blueness would seep into the western horizon, and let the violet velvet to creep upon the sky from the eastern rim, just for itself to deepen into the darkness of the night. I was as a child able to appreciate that beauty, that wildness, but as I became more addicted to the drugs, the sky lost its colour, slowly drained of the blue and the crimson and the violet, covered over with a film of sulken greyness. 


The world reflected my defeated soul.


I worked multiple jobs, and most of the money of course was liquefied into drugs. I saw my salary vanish into pills and cigarettes. And when at times at night I thought of my future, a fear so intense caught up with my heart, that made me let go of my reality, and create a fantasy that stretched only into the pleasure of the pills.



At that time of my life, I rarely spoke with my family, and to be honest, I did not try to meet with them either. Sometimes when I was with my friends, in some party somewhere enjoying ourselves, it would come to me these moments of sadness. It was as if two worlds pushed against my vision, one of family, one of friends and parties, and I would usually stand up, tell my friends that I'm feeling unwell, and walk out burdened with my timeless pain.  


Years had passed, and I was then in my thirties. I still remember when I first was introduced in the facility as a newcomer. I still remember the clean white halls, the wooden banister that cut through the walls, its dark brown colour, the drapes that floated upon the white tiles, as a light breeze pushed in from the garden, the plant pots at every corner. The white coated men that roamed the halls, their faces covered with smiles as they passed us in the lavender-smelling corridors. I always felt uneasy from those smiles, feeling that only disdain and contempt burrowed under.


 The rehab was called "Heaven's Footing". After I was found passed out on the floor of my apartment, one of my friends called the ambulance, which luckily came quickly to my rescue. The overdose almost killed me, if not for my friend, who, ironically, is my dealer.


It was there where I first met her. She was sitting by the window, looking out into the garden, where the treetops merged into the clouds in the distance. Her face was lit by the faint light of the evening. It was cold, and so she had a thin quilt upon her shoulders. It seemed to me that she shuddered to those occasional blows of the wind. When I addressed her, she turned her head carefully, with a graceful movement of the neck. Her hair ruffled weakly from the open window, that sent a dewy smell floating in from the garden. It seemed to me at that moment that the trees, the green grass, the soothing wind, the broad lake, were all mirrored in her beauty. She had a slender face, her eyes large gleaned in the soaking rays of the sun, and the tender smile that softened her cheeks was the world flooding its beauty upon her face. I hesitated for a moment, feeling an arrow piercing my chest, but when I spoke, the words flowed with ease, as if buttered by the beauty of her eyes.


As we sat there talking for a while, I found her opening up to me that day, the way the flowers awaken in the cool winds of spring. As she told me her story, her voice delicate, touching upon the words with the utmost care, her life went gradually from being that of a stranger, to that of someone that I not only knew for years, but that I somehow had the memory of, stored somewhere in my mind.


As I was new here, she made sure to introduce me to a bunch of her friends. I got to know people that shared my problems. It was as if some eyes popped on the surface of mind, peering into the lives of these strangers, lives built upon the sounds of words.


 There, I spent my dearest moments. I remember the evenings as we sat by the wooden benches of the garden watching the sunset, the redness that spilled over the still water of the lake. The wet grass shimmering under the bracing arms of the sun. I still remember the nights when we slipped into each other's rooms, and huddled in a thin blanket, we would let the moonlight guide our words into the passages of memory. Her eyes basked in the silver light of the moon, it would glimmer in that darkness, her pupils showered with the paleness. 


For me to recall these memories is to dare and open a wound, which took a long time to take the image of a healed skin. It's like watching a tragic love story twice. All that joyfulness is meaningless, for the ending, which gives meaning to the passing of time, is that of misery, of separation, of heartbreak. I know that sometimes I tell myself to be grateful, thankful that it even happened. I tell myself that to have the memories of all those happy moments is beautiful in itself. But, no! The memories are not here to sooth me, they are not here to fill the place of what I lost, they are here to remind me that I lost something. 


So shortly when we came out of rehab, we started dating. I think that we already knew that this was kind of inevitable, we must've both thought about it in those cold evenings, as we sat shoulder to shoulder, staring at the trees casting their growing shadows upon the darkening grounds. 


What really hurt me when I came out, was that I was turned in the minds of who I love to nothing but an addict. They've taken the man out of me, the humanity in me, and made me in their minds into nothing but an addict. You might not understand what I'm trying to say, but the only thing I can say to make matters as lucid as I can, is that they erased all I was to them, all the memories we've created, all the qualities I had, and moulded me to a one dimensional creature, an addict. My purpose, my cause, my life. 


My siblings have made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with me. They wished I'd stop calling, passing by, or anything that would put me with them in a conversation. I remember them telling me, as if they all rehearsed it before saying it to me, "You can't change. You said that already too many times. You tried to stop on more than one occasion, but you're only getting worse." Those sentences, blurted out by my brothers and sisters ,reverberated forever in my mind. The echoes of those words crossing the shores of my soul, made me always alarmed of myself, waiting for myself to slip up, to fulfil their prophecies of doom.  


When confronted with their indifferent cruelty, I decided that I wanted nothing to do with them either. I cut ties with them, and went back to my love. I was so sure that there was no one in the world, not even my mother, that could love me the way Loubna would. That was her name. The flower that blossomed in the fields of my ashes.


That's the tragic route of beauty. It only burns to be extinguished by misfortune. The same way rain ceases for the sun to shine, the sun ceases to shine for the rain to fall. It was in the third year of our dating when I lost her. We were even thinking of marriage for god's sake!


That year her sister was diagnosed with cancer. It only took her two months to pass away. Loubna loved her so much, she couldn't cope with the severity of grief, so she overdosed the day after the funeral. Everything crumbled in a second, a fleeting moment of weakness. 


I think that definitely marked my downfall. I just couldn't care anymore, and when I started caring again, after years of her death, it was too late then. I was stuck in the webs of my own despair. I became nothing but a body, a container empty of life, save the dregs of the past. 


I occasionally hear news from my siblings. Some of my nieces and nephews had married, which makes me look at time with frightened eyes. 


I don't have friends. I have nobody, really. I work at a pizza shop, and when they address me, they keep asking me for my name. I am a nobody, whose existence matters to nobody.


This is my life. The life of a Kyle Johnson.






April 15, 2022 16:10

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38 comments

23:05 Apr 16, 2022

I don't know how I didn't notice this already. In the second paragraph, it's "It would come to me the memories of my childhood home..." It sucks that I can't change it by now. I hope it wouldn't make such a bad impression on the judges.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:38 Apr 16, 2022

Don't let it bother you. Continue to edit. Read the story out loud. Tinker with it. Make changes as you wish. There are other contests to enter. Plus, you can start a webpage and put your work out for others to read. This is a good one for your portfolio. Keep going :)

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01:16 Apr 17, 2022

Exactly! Thank you. Sometimes it's hard to handle that frustration.

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Russell Norman
12:09 Apr 17, 2022

These are minor issues. It is your powerful emotion filled stories that counts most. I have traveled the world, and the core challenges of humanity are universal. We are keen to hear everyone's stories - including yours. You are a great storyteller.

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19:03 Apr 17, 2022

Thank you so much.😀

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16:17 Apr 15, 2022

Kyle Johnson, you don't know me, I don't know you, but your name felt perfect. Thank you, and I hope it's okay.

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K. Antonio
02:34 Apr 18, 2022

I agree with everything that everyone on here has mentioned so far. I think the writing: the mood, tone and narrator's voice come off as both mature, and laced with sorrow. The prose has many shining moments, and I thought that the theme of this piece was interesting. It resonated with me, which is always a good sign. Now I'm going to be annoying (but that's only because I'm a teacher) and give some feedback: - I would definitely maybe take some time to study your usage of commas in English. For example: You don't need a comma after "usi...

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13:31 Apr 18, 2022

Man I swear I just wrote a two-page reply just for me to press cancel. What the hell?! Anyway I'll try to make this as concise as I can. First of all, what do you mean by annoying? I literally after I finished reading your comment, thought does he he give this for free? You literally wrote that to point out 'novice mistakes' and I wanna thank you deeply for that. I appreciate this meticulous review you've written, it's very helpful. I think the first two criticisms you made are on point. I personally don't know what the hell that comma is do...

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K. Antonio
15:07 Apr 18, 2022

Some people aren't very keen on receiving any critique so I'm always wary of the fact that anything I can say can come off as annoying. Many moons ago, when I started on Reedsy, people were always so kind and gave me extensive critique, anything from a typo to a misplaced comma, and in the end it definitely made me better, so I do try to pay that forward to others when I can. Haha, yeah, it's free of charge. Technically, as a teacher, I already make a living editing and correcting my students' mistakes, so Reedsy is just my creative outlet/...

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16:22 Apr 18, 2022

K. Antonio, Reedsy users are very lucky to have you. Thank you so much for having such a kind spirit. CHEERS!

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Alex Sultan
08:08 Apr 17, 2022

Your writing style is very impressive! I haven't read any other writing like it - you're poetic with how you write, all the way through, and I kept looking forward to the next line. I like how you went about the prompt - a full life story - and I enjoyed it. Lines like: 'thoughts that floated in gloom upon my consciousness,' 'But my heart cares not for what they wronged me, but only for them, without what they did or not did to me.' 'That's the tragic route of beauty. It only burns to be extinguished by misfortune.' I found these all so cap...

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18:12 Apr 17, 2022

Hello Sultan. It's so good to have a comment by one of the best writers on Reedsy. I've read some of your work, and to think of my writing as 'poetic', is such a huge confidence boost. It's humbling that you even found some phrases that you liked. You're right I still am terrible at grammar, which is kind of embarrassing. Thank you for giving me your thoughts! Have a great day!

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22:28 Apr 16, 2022

Your story telling ability is amazing, even with some of the grammar issues, the heart of the story comes through. I cant imagine how difficult it would be to write in a second langauge, especially english, which has so many one offs and strange rules. Keep going, I know you will have amazing stories in english soon.

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22:43 Apr 16, 2022

You are so right about the grammar issues, I still have to put some real work on that part of my writing. The summer vacation would help me focus more on improving those splinters of my work, and I hope you're right about me writing great stories in the future. Thank you for the very helpful, enlightening feedback you've given me. Cheers!

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H L Mc Quaid
20:28 Apr 16, 2022

Beautiful, haunting, unforgettable. Well done, Ismail.

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00:35 Apr 17, 2022

I never imagined someone describing my work as such, I am humbled by your approval. Thank you so much!

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Phil Manders
18:52 Apr 16, 2022

Hi Ismail This story pulled me in and held me from start to finish. You mention in your bio that English isn’t your suit. This may come as a surprise to you but I think this adds something to your writing. It’s given you a unique voice which I found poetic. Great work. I very much look forward to reading more of your stories. My favourite line “ I hesitated for a moment, feeling an arrow piercing my chest, but when I spoke, the words flowed with ease, as if buttered by the beauty of her eyes.” I read this over a few times it was so good! K...

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Thom Brodkin
18:04 Apr 16, 2022

Ismail, you have a gift for painting abstract thoughts. Keep writing, I can tell it's in your blood. Great job.

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Daniel R. Hayes
16:43 Apr 16, 2022

Hi Ismail, this was a very powerful and moving story! The way you wrote this with such heartfelt emotions is astounding. It really tugged at this horror writers heartstrings and I loved it!! This line stuck out to me: "But my heart cares not for what they wronged me, but only for them, without what they did or not did to me." - Simply amazing! I think a lot of people will be able to find something in this story to relate to, and I look forward to reading more. Keep up the great work!! :)

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17:09 Apr 16, 2022

Thank you so much for reading my piece. That's actually my favourite line too. I'm really glad you write. Please have a nice day.

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Daniel R. Hayes
23:26 Apr 16, 2022

You're welcome! You are off to a great start, keep writing because the more you do, the better you will get :)

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Russell Norman
16:29 Apr 16, 2022

Great story. Strong voice. Emotionally challenging, Dealing with some of life's biggest issues. Well done.

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17:12 Apr 16, 2022

Thank you so much Norman. I appreciate you liking it.

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John K Adams
16:01 Apr 16, 2022

You capture, and reveal the heart of this wounded man better than I've ever read. So many good lines, I can't quote them all. He is utterly defeated and alone, yet has an unquenchable spirit that must carry on. Beautiful. The occasional cumbersome phrasing might be helped by reading aloud in the editing process. Excess words can be pared by using shorter sentences. You can always build them up again if it suits your story. I look forward to reading more of your work. Great start!

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17:22 Apr 16, 2022

I'm glad you enjoyed it. I tried my best to portray him so we feel him close to us, so we might understand his pain. Sadly it's late to make any changes by now. But truly thankful for you for pointing them out. Have a great day John.

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15:54 Apr 16, 2022

Ismail, this is a very bittersweet story. The constant struggle of addiction and the desire for change and hope that seems just out of reach is a very heavy subject, but you did well! This was personal for me because I have lost family members to such addictions ❤️ Thank you for writing this, and keep up the good work! 👏👏👏

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17:18 Apr 16, 2022

Hey Hannah! I hope you're doing well, and I'm so sorry for your loss. It's always hard to see someone you love struggling with things like addiction, and I tried to make us understand that for the addict, it's so hard to just quit. So we may never turn our backs on them. Truly happy that you liked it.

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Zelda C. Thorne
15:09 Apr 16, 2022

Hello there! I found this captivating. The voice was strong, full of regret and resognation. I felt sympathy for him. Your descriptions are wonderful, I especially liked: "... the sky lost its colour, slowly drained of the blue and the crimson and the violet, covered over with a film of sulken greyness." The whole description of the rehab facility. Pretty much the whole paragraph that ends "... the words flowed with ease, as if buttered by the beauty of her eyes." Looking at time with " frightened eyes" - brilliant Well done! I look for...

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15:46 Apr 16, 2022

Thank you so much for taking the time and expressing what you exactly liked about the story. Thank god it was captivating! I thought it was rather dull with the moving of the story. I'm humbled that liked the writing, I always try to improve it, to make it aesthetically pleasing. Have a great day!

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Zelda C. Thorne
16:03 Apr 16, 2022

No worries. Definitely not dull. To be honest, stories like this (largely internal and reflective) do tend to bore me about half way through, but not this one. I enjoyed reading. Keep writing!

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Sharon Hancock
01:55 Apr 24, 2022

Wow. I was blown away by this story. Such intensity of emotion. Someone I love is going through addiction and this story really illustrates that well. “the words flowed with ease, as if buttered by the beauty of her eyes.”—this is a beautiful phrase as is your description of meeting her the first time. Also, your voice is unique and flows beautifully. Great job! I really enjoyed this.😻

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Suma Jayachandar
04:50 Apr 18, 2022

Your imagery is so exquisite and evocative! And your voice is unique, Ismail. To think it's coming from such a young writer, writing in a foreign language is impressive. As a writer who gathered enough courage to write in a foreign language and put herself out there much later, I can only applaud you. In time, you will learn to perfect the language(as you read more) and bring fluidity to your writing(as you write more) and increase the relatability with your readers(as you write about your lived experiences/ do thorough research on the subje...

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Shea West
01:18 Apr 18, 2022

Ismail, I think aside from the poetic quality of this particular story there was a maturity to it that sounds like you've personally lived many years. At least that reflects in this particular story. My favorite line was: And then of course I learned, the hard way, that understanding something is far from solving it. If that isn't the truth, I don't know what is! Well done Ismail, I hope to see more from you.

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13:36 Apr 18, 2022

Hello shea! It's an honour that you think it sounds mature. And I feel the first to deny that is my mother. Lol. Thank you so much for your kind comment. Have a great day.

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Beth Connor
16:18 Apr 16, 2022

This was such a touching bittersweet story. Your vivid and beautiful imagery compliments the sorrow throughout the tale. I love how the opening moments triggered such a barrage of emotions and feelings. Truly enjoyed reading this.

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17:15 Apr 16, 2022

I'm so happy that you enjoyed it. If it made you feel something, then I'm content with my work. I thank you so much for reading and giving me your thoughts Beth. Have a great day!

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Deidra Lovegren
14:02 Apr 16, 2022

This is tragically beautiful, the voice of the family's black sheep, a lonely heart that self-medicates to cope with pain and rejection. The tone is on point. Heavy with regret. Resigned to his fate. The mood you create is compelling -- the reader cannot help but feel sympathy (empathy?) for the narrator. Authentic and wise, you write decades beyond your years! The ending with his nephews and nieces progressing in life, and he's just stuck is very telling, looking at time with "frightened eyes." Most powerful line: "I tried to shake off th...

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15:36 Apr 16, 2022

The fact that you think it's good, that's enough for me. I was really worried that it wasn't any good, but thank you for your assurance. It's always an honour to be complemented by the Reedsy Legend "Deidra The Great"

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